The Outside Stands
I walked around the neighborhood and was in awe of how good most of the houses looked. Oh sure, I could see a water line here and there on the outside of the structure to show how high the water had been, but for the most part, the homes didn’t appear damaged. Since I knew these homes had suffered severe hurricane damage, I couldn't help but think this was strange. Many of these houses, from the looks of their brick exterior, stood beautifully poised in their upstanding neighborhood, appearing strong and untouched.
Then I looked at the edges of the yards, along the streets. Piles of debris were laying in the front of each of these houses. Drywall. Refrigerators. Televisions. Computers. Toys. Couches. More drywall. Drywall that had once hung in a living room. Wood trim that had been the baseboards of a bedroom. Doors that had given privacy to the unknown family who resided there. Mattresses that just a short time ago had been used to get a refreshing night sleep. Toys that had been held in tiny hands. And it all was placed now in a pile at the edge of the road, one pile for every home in the neighborhood. Some were bigger than others, but every home had it’s pile.
Hurricanes. Recently, my son, his wife, and their two daughters found themselves evacuating as Hurricane Florence approached their South Carolina home. And last year soon after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I traveled to Houston for medical reasons. I stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s home, which resided in a neighborhood that had been impacted by all of Harvey’s flooding. After my return from Houston and after seeing the damage of Florence, I couldn’t help but continue to think of the devastation that these hurricane’s wreaked on anything in their paths. While in Houston, I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but throughout my time there, I was able to walk and drive through a variety of neighborhoods that were affected by this storm. As I thought more about them today, my heart went to the similarities that can be drawn from the storm and my personal life. Today is part one of three blogs that have been laid on my heart.
You see, the houses I saw appeared very intact from the outside. If the piles by the road wouldn’t have been there, one may walk through these neighborhoods and think the homes went unscathed by the storm. One would look and say, “Wow, they came out lucky. Hardly a mark on those houses.” They looked strong. They looked well manicured. They looked for all intents and purposes, very normal.
I wonder how many of us are walking around like that. How many of us are covering up what’s on the inside by creating a strong, well manicured, normal outside appearance? How many of us are afraid to show others what is on the inside? How many of us are covering our pain with a smile? Anger with a laugh? Loneliness with a drink? Fear by withdrawing ? Anxiety with fake confidence?
Just like the homes in the hurricane, we often appear to have it all together. The reality is if someone peeked in the window of our “home”, our heart, the person would see something much different than what we are showing from the outside. We find a need to show the world that we can be all; we can do all. That we don’t have all that pain, anger, or loneliness that others are dealing with. That we don’t struggle with fear or anxiety. So we put on our masks, and hide behind the outside shell, pretending that we are just fine.
But what if? What IF we decided to show some of our “piles” to others? What IF we shared with others our struggles, anger, and loneliness? What IF we were bold enough to let others know what we fear in our lives or what makes us anxious? What IF we were real?
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t put on masks sometimes. There are times when I hide the fear I have about my health. I don’t often share that there are times that I get lonely. I also know how to put on a face of confidence when the reality is that I sometimes question whether I’m good enough.
But I also know that I put those masks on much less frequently than I used to. I don’t know whether it’s age or experience, or a combination of both, but I have learned that putting on those masks, hiding behind the strong, beautiful outside “house”, is not nearly as freeing as being transparent and allowing others to see what’s behind the exterior. I’ve learned that when we allow others to see those parts of us that we are tempted to hide, we open ourselves up for encouragement from others. We allow God to use others to support us; to put people in our lives who can relate to us. We create opportunities for others to feel comfortable enough to come out from behind the strong, beautiful “walls” of their home and share their struggles. We become real TOGETHER.
God not only reminded me of how He can send people to support me when I come out from behind my walls, but He reminded me of how intimately He knows and loves me, seeing right through my walls. I love when the Lord says to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It reminds me that my God looks beyond my outside. There is no use in me hiding what is on the inside; He knows exactly what’s in there. He knows my heart. I love the fact that I don’t need to pretend or build an outside that covers up what’s on the inside because as Psalm 139:1 reminds me, He has searched me and knows me. He knows me! He knows my pain and fears. He understands my loneliness and anxieties. And I find peace in that. My prayer is that you do too.
THINK ABOUT IT: The outside appearance of the homes in Houston did not reflect what was on the inside of those people’s homes. It was a sad and strange state of deception. Does my, does your, outside appearance reflect what is on your inside? Or are we living a life laced in that same sad and strange state of deception.
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